“Being here in the U.S. is everything for my family,” said Ammar. “It is school for my children, health care for my son, and a peaceful life for my family."
As I approached this family's front door and I could hear the TV inside blaring with Inauguration Day 2017 ceremonies. We were introduced, talked through a translator and another volunteer with World Relief, drank wonderfully sugary chai, and discussed their first few weeks in America as the TV behind us was showed the motorcades and ceremony to make Trump our next president. Now, just weeks from that morning the refugee program has been suspended for at least 120 days. A program that just allowed this family to arrive here in the U.S. to continue their journey towards safety and peace. As I volunteer with World Relief I learn again and again that people only leave their homes if their home means danger or death. It is not a choice for refugees to leave, but the last resort or a difficult choice made in hopes of saving their children and lives. This family and their 5 children lived in Aleppo, Syria before their community was bombed, including their daughter's school that she only was able to attend for one day until it became a pile of rubble. After realizing their family was unsafe and in danger they packed a few belongings and headed for Turkey where they have stayed for the past 4 years. Life was difficult for them there and Ammar and his sons had to work 12 hour days at textile factory. Their children were unable to attend school and as the situation in Syria got worse they realized they need to apply for refugee status if their children were to have an opportunity for a better life and an education.
After over a year of background checks, extensive interviews, and vetting this family was given refugee status and approved to resettle in the U.S. A local church helped furnish their new rental home and volunteers are welcoming them to our area. I arrived at their home in time to see their children get off the big bright yellow school bus. These parents were shocked to learn their son with special needs was able to attend a program at a local public school along with their other children. I watched them proudly unpack his backpack with folders and papers with his name on them. These moments are the reason the refugee program is so important. I am blessed to be a small part of telling these stories because the people behind the political arguments and posturing matter. This family is seeking a peaceful life here in America and they will face many real challenges (limited English, their oldest son is still in Turkey hoping to be reunited with them, & the sometimes daunting adjusting to the culture in America). As they continue their story here I hope and pray they sense they are welcome. And safe.
Read more on this family's story in the latest World Relief Dupage/Aurora January Newsletter.